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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE                                           201

hero who, in his fullness of being and deed, does not stay to ripen
his fruit, but, like those who have passed away in youth, rushes
to death. (The idea is mooted in the ist Elegy: 'Denk: es erhdltsicb
der Held, selbsf der Unfergang war ibm \ nur ein Vonvand, *%u sein: seine
let^te Geburt?} But if the hero is praised for his disregard of life
the implication might be that life is without value. The yth Elegy
disproves this by glorifying existence. 'Hiersein ist berrlich? And
therefore the poet, addressing the angel, whom he fears no more,
lauds what life has created - cathedrals, music, love. The essential
thing is that now in the yth Elegy the human race is magnified -
for its achievements - whereas hitherto only individual represen-
tatives of humanity - lovers who love for love's sake, those who
died young, the acrobat, the hero - had been praised. - The 8th
Elegy is a variant of the 4th in which children are shown to have
unity of being; in the 8th animals have it, for they too live an
'open* life unburdened by consciousness; that is, in a state of pure
existence, which man can attain by death only. The 9th Elegy, a
hymn to life, answers the question asked in the ist Elegy: What
is the purpose of human existence? The answer is that we do not
live to gain experience, knowledge, happiness, but for the sake of
existence itself. We must, therefore, praise existence, praise the
simple things of life, and give them permanence by making visible
in them that which is invisible in ourselves. Here we have again
Rilke's doctrine of things to which we, the most transitory of
beings, give permanence by shaping them in art. There is another
late elaboration of the theme in the poem Der Goldscbmied^ the
seizure of the artist by the thing and the projection into the thing
of the artist's soul:

"&attm greift aus uns und uberset^t die Dinge :
class dir das Dasein ernes Battms gelinge,
mrflnmnraum urn ibn, ausjenem Raum9
das in dir west.

Having thus, in the 9th Elegy, justified life, in the xoth the poet
accepts pain and sorrow, which will pass with us into the next
world. Life is the city of pain (Ljeid-Stadt\ death is the land of pain
(Leidland). "If I were to cry out/ the ist Elegy begins, "who would
hear me in the cohorts of the angels ?' In the loth Elegy the angel
has heard and has approved all; approved, too, the cgrim insight'

Gedichte und Fragmentarisches.